Shooter of Amish Horse Gets 1-2 Years

To hopefully close the book on an awful story, the Lancaster County man who shot and killed an Amish-owned horse has been given 1-2 years in prison, plus probation (hat tip to commenter City Slicker):

According to testimony at Diggs’ March preliminary hearing, Diggs was a passenger in his own car when the horse was shot last Nov. 24 in East Lampeter Township.

Horse owner Levi Lapp was driving his buggy about 9 p.m. on North Ronks Road when a car passed them from behind. In the buggy were his wife, holding their baby, and their children, aged 7, 9, and 12.

Lapp testified he heard a noise like a firecracker, but didn’t think much of it. The horse startled, but Lapp was able to control it and get to his home about a mile away.

At home, Lapp noticed blood and a hole in the horse’s lower left side. A veterinarian was called, but the horse died before the vet arrived.

Amish Horse Shooter
The shooting occurred last November in East Lampeter Township. Photo by Ed C.

Police also found stolen property on searching Timothy Diggs’ home last December.

Diggs apologized for his actions, and cited his abuse of cough medicine as an influence.

Judge David Ashworth promised to “put you in jail for as long as I can” if Diggs should land in trouble again.

I don’t know what you think, but to me this feels like a light sentence, especially given the danger posed to the family. What if Diggs’ aim had been poorer?

Does the punishment fit the crime?

Since we’re on the subject, you might recall a similar story: the 2012 hit-and-run drunk driver in Indiana who intentionally struck and killed an Amish buggy horse. If you missed it, that person received 18 months of county work release.

Burglary will apparently get you much harsher punishment than killing horses and endangering their owners.

Word came Friday that a man who burglarized over a dozen Lancaster Amish and Old Order Mennonite homes will serve 7 to 16 years. Drug addiction again plays a role.

I know a lot of factors go into sentencing criminals. Sometimes sentences don’t seem to make sense. I do know one thing. It’s not a job I would want.

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    1. Garrett+Kozlowski

      you do the crime you do the time

      I think he got off too easy, what if he missed and hit the buggy and the occupants, pure disregard for life, he will do half sentence, that’s just the way it work’s, I hope he will do some thinking In their, I think when he gets out he should be made by the judge to clean horse stalls at a race track, and buy a new horse for the owner.

      1. Dr._K

        justice or mercy?

        Without knowing greater details of the story, the concerns of light sentence or right sentence as conjecture should be balanced against the mind and faith of those to whom the adjudged committed the crime. If you look at past events, even the massacre at Nickel Mines, you will come away with an idea of mercy and forgiveness. If my recall serves me correct, the Amish in that community reached out to the perpetrators’ widow, to be sure she and her family were taken care of into the future.

        I would welcome someone who knows more about their faith and their thought to expound on these ideas, perhaps to even get an interview with the bishop in the community where this shooting took place. This is not to intrude on their ideals, but to give the world an idea of what forgiveness, mercy and grace are really all about. G-d’s ways are not our ways and the Amish exist in this manner.

      2. Priscilla Darlene Sparks

        Shooter of Amish Horse.

        Maybe the law should take a step back when taking a horse was a SERIOUS ACT, and they hung the person. I see killing these horses that the Amish community depends on not only for transportation but to work their farms and businesses. They are important to their families’ existence. Also cruelty to animals should be added the the charge of shooting or harming a horse in any way.

    2. Robert Gschwind

      You know what they say about excuses. Still have free will and have to take responsibility for your actions. I doubt if anyone forced those substances down their throats. The Amish will forgive. The judge won’t!

    3. Robin Miller


      Thanking God that this Amish man and his family were not harmed. It’s heartbreaking that the hero horse died in the end, getting it’s family home safe and sound. As for the shooter and “abusing” cough medicine, no excuse. Pure evilness … thankful that the courts have taken care of him.

      1. Tough horse?

        To me, someone who doesn’t know horses, that part of this story is amazing–to have received a mortal wound but to get the family home, and by the sound of it, without the owner knowing that something was seriously wrong.

        It must have been in a lot of pain yet had the toughness to do that. Or maybe the effects of the wound grew worse on arrival at home.

        1. marge nistler

          shooting of horse

          Glen Wilson I totally agree with you, not nearly enough!

    4. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Sad. Does anyone know if he was aiming at the horse or the buggy?

      1. Shots fired at buggy or horse?

        I don’t know if that was ever made clear, but I’m going to guess the horse was the intended target just because a) it sounds like he had a close to point-blank shot since it was fired from a car passing from behind, and the buggy is a large enough target that you think one would be able to hit it in that situation, and b) if he was aiming at the buggy this escalates into an attempted murder situation, and as cruel and senseless as killing a horse might seem, shooting at the occupants of a random buggy is levels worse and that much harder to imagine.

    5. Carol


      Hi Erik, The blame game began in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. People do not want to take responsibility for or be held accountable in any way for their decisions or actions. Lie and pass the buck. This person is receiving the consequences of his actions and he hasn’t a leg to stand on. I pray the Lord will touch his life, making him think about what he chose to do(abuse of medication, stealing, reckless endangerment with a potentially lethal weapon etc). I pray he will repent and turn to the Lord for his salvation and conversion of his life. My thoughts are not just for this person, but for all. Thank you for the update and for your efforts with this great website. Pan z wami(hope I spelled that right). Carol

      1. Taking responsibility

        Thanks Carol, great comment. And nice Polish, looks good to me 🙂 (translation for non-speakers of “Pan z Wami”: “The Lord be with you”).

        I agree with what you say here, I suspect that the judge must have seen something to give this person another chance. I struggle with these situations because the crimes are very upsetting and I believe in taking responsibility for one’s actions…but I want to try to have some empathy for the committer of the crime especially if he shows remorse and a desire to change. The drugs are not an excuse but a complicating factor, and his current circumstances probably the end result of a series of bad decisions. Like I said above I’m glad it’s not my job to sort out people’s punishments.

        I don’t have any connection with this victim family but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they have spent time praying for and thinking about him since the event happened.

    6. Juanita Cook

      I think we need harsher laws for those who abuse any animal. These people need to stop this and they could also be putting the people into a really dangerous place. It is sad that they don’t do more about this kind of crime.

    7. Osiah Horst


      The unfortunate reality in our day is that the judge cannot do what he would like to do. If there are lawyers involved, he must go by what evidence came out during the trial, not what he thinks would be right. He must also consider what has been done in similar situations in the past. If he assigns too severe a sentence, he may well end up having the case appealed.

      The other reality is that we can not treat the death of an animal as severely as the death of a person. As Eric said, we can be thankful we do not need to pass sentence, much as we might like sometimes.

      Currently in Canada, the rate of crime is done but the cost of justice is way up. One judge recently pointed out that “agile legal minds can probably find an ambiguity in as simple a request as “close the door please” and most certainly in even the shortest and clearest of the ten commandments”.

    8. Osiah Horst


      The rate of crime in Canada is down, not done!

    9. Tina Kegley

      Too light...

      Too light of a sentence, but perhaps that is the limit of the law? In addition, he should have to pay back double what that horse was worth,go to drug ciubseling, and work on an Amish farm when he gets out of prison! Forgiveness is good, but there seems to be absolutely no personal accountability in our world today.

      1. Jerry

        I agree that the sentence is too light. Mandates say that a longer term would mean time served in a State Prison as opposed to the County Jail. He probably gets time served as well. Since late last Dec. He has no prior. Restitution in the amount of $3,000 and the victim wants nothing. That’s typical here in South Central PA. THe police also foung two stolen rifles and a stolen motorcycle in his residence. THe motorcycle had the VIN ground off. The 21/22 year old wants to get his GED and attend a mechanics school.
        The victims and the criminals could not have come from two more different worlds. A young semi-urban black man and friends with a loaded gun joy riding in the country meet a horse-and-buggy Amish family.

    10. Tina Kegley

      Should be...

      “Counseling” – sorry!

    11. Alice Mary

      Animal-related crimes here are getting more attention, and harsher punishment than many other places I’ve heard of. Still, a horse to the Amish is more than a mere vehicle to the English. It is a sentient being, and one that, as shown here (getting the family home safe, though it was mortally wounded), is worth far more than any mere mechanical contraption! The sentence was too light, in my opinion. I almost hope this guy DOES get into more trouble when his sentence is up, if only to be put away for a longer period of time!

      It’s beyond me to understand why anyone would do such a cruel thing!

      Alice Mary



      “DRIVE BY SHOOTING” not sure of this one.



    13. Jack Mitchell


      I do feel that the sentence in quite lenient considering the possible consequences of this man’s actions – let alone the consequences of what actually happened. One dares not imagine what may have happened had the horse bolted or panicked or cause the Buggy to crash.
      It is also very true that the value of a horse to an Amish family is indeed very great.
      I would be interested to know of any similar situations where, for instance, a man has shot the tyres of a moving car containing a family causing the car at the very least to move off the road. Would the consequences in that instance be considered in a trial judgment?

    14. Forest Hazel

      Human life is becoming cheaper and cheaper in this country. Too many people like these have so little morals as to shoot down human beings without a thought, why should they care about a horse?

    15. Jerry

      I am so torn with the sentence. I think he should have been sent to Camp Hill SCI to serve a 10 year term. But we al know that our Amish friends have a “Forgiveness attitude.” and that might have played a part of the sentence. Let’s all agree that the crime was stupid and he had no thought of the effect. Still it was a thrill seeking attack that deserves a severe verdict. It was a stupid trill decision that a stupid child made. Tonight I will pray for the criminal and the victim. More on the victim side however.

    16. Jerry

      Most Amish and Plain people don’t consider the horse as highly as most of us do. He is an asest and not a “family member”. I was once chastised for petting a carriage horse. He’s not a pet but an object that serves a purpose. That’s the way they live. I respect that. This crime is not within my reasoning and should have been handled as such. But that’s not the law. A crime against the Amish should be considered as a “hate crime” with double the sentence. That’s my opinion and I will work in the system to include that event. I will email my two House Reps to introduce a bill. It’s a shame on current attitudes. Mr. Lapps’ daughter told me that they bought a new horse for 1600.00 from a neighbor. Personally I think they sould have accepted a 2000.00 judgement in restitution settlement.

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        A comment on petting a buggy horse: If it was hitched and tied to a hitching rail, it is better to not pet them. With blinders on, a horse might be startled if someone pets it and pull his head away quickly which would pull on the bit (as the tie rope snaps to the bit) or yank on the check-rein. Some horses might try to nip at a person maybe not intending to bite but to “feel” the hand with its lips. There have been times the one petting thinks he is being “attacked” or whatever and it can get unpleasant. It’s like trying to pet a seeing-eye dog, really. Don’t interfere with a working animal unless you have permission and know what you are doing. One of our buggy horses wouldn’t mind being petted, the other would not be above snapping at you — a difference in personality & temperaments.

        1. Horse kicks

          Interesting comment Mark. Have you ever had any close calls with getting kicked? Whenever I am around horses in the stalls or wherever I am always hyper-aware of this. It seems you hear about people getting kicked fairly often, and obviosly Amish people have a lot more exposure to that risk. I know the consequences can be worse than a bite.

    17. Mark - Holmes Co.

      I’ve only been seriously kicked once and it was really my own fault. I turned a horse out to pasture that was known to be really hyper and as I let go of him he whirled around and kicked – not to be mean but because he was so excited to be turned out. As I was rolling on the ground moaning in pain, he was leaping all around the pasture in high spirits. Forgiveness can be exercised on animals, too! 🙂
      If you are working with horses, it’s safer to be right behind them. A kick won’t get much power if you are at close quarters. Never startle a horse — always speak calmly to them to let them know you are close and if they get into a scrap with other horses, as often happens, keep your distance until the situation calms down unless you really know how to handle them.
      We recently bought a new horse and so the “pecking order” is in confusion and when all the horses are turned out or brought it, they have been acting up, but it’s one of those things that will have to sort itself out and usually does, but in the meantime we need to be cautious so we don’t get caught in the cross-fire.

    18. Mark - Holmes Co.

      This reminds me of what once happened to a friend of ours who was told off by a tourist because one of his horses had cuts on its neck. The cuts came from a scrap between horses where the one bit had bullied a new horse and found out quickly the new horse was not weak or easily bullied, the results being some nasty looking bites on the neck. We’ve had a few horses injured like that, though never bad enough to have them put down.

    19. Ed from NY

      I suspect this was a plea bargain. The victims were spared from being called to testify, the court system spared a trial. NOT saying it is right that justice was properly served. But this kind of compromise is rather common in the justice system.